Skip to main content
  1. Leisure
  2. Food & Drink
  3. Restaurants

BBQ 81: comfort food is a family affair

See also

BBQ 81


Barbeque may be the most hotly debated cooking topic. There are so many potential points of disagreement, it’s bewildering. Beef, chicken, or pork? How much char should there be? What kinds of vegetables can be part of the meal without sacrificing meaty authenticity? Sweet, savory or spicy? Marinade, sauce, or dry-rub? Tomato-based or vinegar-based? Gas or charcoal? These are the kinds of debates that continue in families for generations.

It’s just that kind of friendly family argument that spawned Barbeque 81 on The Boulevard. Named in memory of owner Brandon Jessie’s father—Ron Jessie was LA Rams #81—the restaurant is the culmination of two generations of barbeque efforts. Having once owned a business with his now-passed father, Big Daddy’s Barbecue, Brandon has now set out on his own to bring San Diego barbecue that reflects his long but loving arguments with his father over flavor and technique.

The menu offers a little bit of everything barbecue—pulled pork, ribs, chicken, burgers, and California’s own barbecue favorite, the excellent house tri-tip. Most meats come with two side dishes and sweet roll or cornbread. It’s not fancy, just delicious and satisfying. Sides include the same variety shown in the meat—mac & cheese, deliciously bacony collard greens, traditional cole slaw, baked beans.

For the best of the mix, take a morning run or bike ride and then tuck into the tri-tip with tater tots, collard greens and cornbread. It’s California barbecue with a little Southern flair. If you’re trying to scale back on such indulgences, go for the BBQ boneless chicken breast with baked beans and coleslaw or green beans. Just pretend you don’t notice the salty tang of bacon and it’s practically health food.

As they’ve settled in and continue to grow, BBQ 81 has added big-screen TVs to watch whatever games are seasonal, and now offer some beers to enjoy with the flavorful dishes. Eat in-house, and there's a solid chance you'll be greeted by the owner, who will ask after your meal and welcome your feedback with enthusiasm and warmth. They also offer catering, so consider bringing in a pit master for a gathering that will surprise guests.

Sometimes the simple thing are the most welcome, and most comforting.

BBQ 81
2302 El Cajon Blvd
(619) 255-1958
Open 12-9, every day except Tuesday
Street parking only